Stemming the Flood Tide
Last month, I reported on the efforts of a Japanese prolifer named Sasaki Kazuo. (https://humanlifereview.com/if-they-only-knew/) When I interviewed Sasaki in early April, he was staging a hunger strike at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in downtown Tokyo, protesting the pending approval of abortifacients for use in Japan.
Despite serious health risks—a friend called an ambulance for Mr. Sasaki when he was beset by severe abdominal pain nearly two weeks into his water-only fast—Mr. Sasaki endured. His hunger strike was not without possible effect: The Ministry delayed the abortifacient approval hearing for a second time while Mr. Sasaki was wasting away on the street outside its office windows.
But as expected, on April 21 an “expert” panel signed off on the abortifacients and the Ministry moved forward with the approval process. Mifepristone and misoprostol cleared the final government hurdle a week later (https://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXZQOUE28CSZ0Y3A420C2000000/).
Mr. Sasaki wrote to me on April 24, after I had shared my earlier blog with him. “The results are in,” he said, speaking of the April 21 panel recommendation. “So, I’m giving up the hunger strike.”
This was welcome news. Mr. Sasaki had been hospitalized due to long weeks of self-starvation on the Tokyo streets. I was greatly relieved that he was eating again. But, he continued, “I will keep fighting. I want to abolish the loophole in the law that allows doctors to perform abortions for economic reasons. I want to end abortion in Japan, including abortions carried out through the use of abortifacients.” This was welcome news, too. Mr. Sasaki had not only survived a potentially fatal gamble with his own health. He had also emerged with a fire in his long-empty belly to fight on.
Such stiffened resolve to stem the abortion flood tide is common. On the morning of April 27, for example, the day before the government was set to approve the use of abortifacients, members of the Respect Life Center, along with other concerned experts and politicians, met with Katō Katsunobu, the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare. The delegation urged Minister Katō to implement strict controls to protect babies and mothers.
In late 2016 I went to the United Nations headquarters in New York City on behalf of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper and JAPAN Forward. My assignment was to attend a symposium there on the ongoing North Korean abduction of innocent civilians from other countries. At that time, Katō Katsunobu was in charge of bringing Japanese abductees home. I covered him again a couple of years later at a similar symposium in Tokyo. Minister Katō fought both North Korean perfidy and Japanese political indifference in his efforts to reunite abducted people with their families; he knows the value of human life. Sources tell me that he is a decent man who respects the pro-life movement.
Perhaps the last-minute appeals to Minister Katō helped. As the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported on April 28 (https://www.sankei.com/article/20230428-4UM7RY2WLJOALOSCZ245ETVGFM/), pharmaceutical companies (including presumably Linepharma, the international company that makes the abortifacients approved for use here) and medical institutions will have to make monthly reports to medical associations in every prefecture and metropolitan area of Japan on the number of abortifacients sold and used. Also, because of the risks of cramping and bleeding that the pills carry, women who use them will be requested (although not required) to remain in the hospital for observation until a dead child has been expelled from their womb.
These are small, albeit important, victories; but perhaps a much bigger disruption of the abortion flood tide in Japan is on the way. At the request of the Respect Life Center, and with the help of some outstanding people at 40 Days for Life in the UK (https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pro-life-activism-is-counter-cultural-40-days-for-life-leader/) and Pro-Life Global (https://www.prolifeglobal.org/our-team) in the US, I reached out to doctors and other pro-life professionals around the world—in Latin America, Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and elsewhere. Several people in India and Taiwan have responded, writing letters urging the Japanese government to reject abortifacients. (Even after it became clear that abortifacients would be approved for use here, pro-lifers from other countries wrote in support of life in Japan—and are still doing so.)
I also filed a short report with the Respect Life Center, which in turn shared it with the Japanese government during the pre-approval process. In it, I wrote of the recent controversy over abortifacients in the United States, and of the ongoing legal, political, and cultural battles coming to a head in my home country over the death-dealing “medicine.” I urged the Japanese government to reconsider its rush to approve substances that many in the United States know to be potentially deadly (for both child and mother) as well as socially destructive.
That’s not all. This month, a pro-life Catholic nun in Taiwan will visit Japan to meet prolifers and keep the momentum going. And, as a result of my efforts to get the media here to cover Mr. Sasaki’s hunger strike, a friendly producer has invited me to participate in an internet debate devoted to pro-life issues. Other prolifers have also contacted the media and political parties, explaining why pro-life is good social policy. Information shared with me in recent days suggests that at least one of the more prominent minority parties in Japan may engage with prolifers on protecting the most vulnerable members of society here.
Neither my report, nor Mr. Sasaki’s hunger strike, nor the reasoned appeals of prolifers in other countries, stopped mifepristone and misoprostol from being approved in Japan. But where the darkness gathers the remaining light shines more brightly. As the government leans into the abortion flood tide, a worldwide network grows, whose members desire the opposite: We want life for Japan (and the world over), and that in abundance. And we are not giving up.
On April 27, I bought four newspapers. Usually I buy one, maybe two on a big news day. But that day I bought a copy of every major daily on the rack, because all four—the Tokyo Shimbun, the Sankei Shimbun, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and the Yomiuri Shimbun—had a front-page, above-the-fold story warning about pending demographic disaster: By the year 2070, all four papers lamented in huge font, the population of Japan is projected to dip below 87 million people.
The Japanese government is on a broken-record loop about there not being enough babies in the country. That is an accurate claim, and also something obvious to anyone paying attention. And yet, the day after the newspapers reported on the doomsday population projections, the same government approved the use of pills designed expressly to kill babies.
While stunned by the hypocrisy—and angered—I also have hope. There are good people in Japan and around the world working to protect Japanese children and their mothers. Thanks to a growing network of global prolifers, Japan is brought more deeply into the fold of those who want people everywhere to be respected, protected, nurtured, and loved. The Japanese government’s approval of abortifacients is a Japanese issue, of course. But because so many have reached out to help, it is a planetary issue now, too.
Mr. Sasaki may go back on hunger strike at some point. His many friends and supporters are urging him not to, but he is dead serious about ending abortion in Japan. So are countless other people in this beautiful country and on continents across the globe. Not necessarily because this is Japan, but because we are all human beings. Having seen how humanity rallies to lift up those in the shadow of the culture of death, I believe, with Mr. Sasaki, that good will win out in the end. The flood tide of abortion can’t, won’t, last forever.